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Music's Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac

Music's Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac (Paperback)

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Synopsis

The American-born Winnaretta Singer (1865-1943) was a millionaire at the age of eighteen, due to her inheriting a substantial part of the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. Her 1893 marriage to Prince Edmond de Polignac, an amateur composer, brought her into contact with the most elite strata of French society. After Edmond's death in 1901, she used her fortune to benefit the arts, science, and letters. Her most significant contribution was in the musical domain: in addition to subsidizing individual artists (Boulanger, Haskil, Rubinstein, Horowitz) and organizations (the Ballets Russes, l'Opera de Paris, l'Orchestre Symphonique de Paris), she made a lifelong project of commissioning new musical works from composers, many of them unknown and struggling, to be performed in her Paris salon. The list of works created as a result is long and extraordinary: Stravinsky's Renard, Satie's Socrate, Falla's El Retablo de Maese Pedro, and Poulenc's Two-Piano and Organ Concertos are among the best-known titles. In addition, her salon was a gathering place for luminaries of French culture such as Proust, Cocteau, Monet, Diaghilev, and Colette. Many of Proust's memorable evocations of salon culture were born during his attendance at concerts in the Polignac music room. Sylvia Kahan brings to life this eccentic and extravagant lover of the arts, whose influence on the 20th Century world of music and literature remains incalculable.

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